Gender-critical professor Kathleen Stock has said ‘it’s not hate speech to say males cannot be women’ and warned of ‘massive public resentment’ if controversial ideas are not discussed – as trans activists plot to stop her speech at Oxford University.
The feminist academic is due to give a talk this evening at the prestigious Oxford Union, which is independent of the university, amid a backlash from campaigners over claims she is transphobic.
Prof Stock’s invitation has been met with anger from trans activists – despite the university’s student union defending a commitment to free speech – and its LGBTQ+ Society has planned a rally to coincide with her talk.
Speaking ahead of the event, though, the professor said ‘controversial and difficult’ views needed to be ‘tested in the public square’.
Prof Stock told the BBC: ‘It is not hate speech to say males cannot be women. You can believe what you like, and I am not stopping anybody believing any different, but it is certainly not hate speech to say that. That is basically the most controversial thing, I think.’
She added: ‘Nothing I’m saying is unreasonable. I am quite compassionate, I’m measured. It’s really important, especially, that younger generations are exposed to ideas that they haven’t come across before, that they haven’t thought about.
‘Sometimes that will be very challenging to them, not because it will influence them into thinking those ideas are right, because they have minds of their own. Just controversial and difficult ideas need to be tested in the public square.
‘We need to think about them properly and we also need to enable discussion of ideas that seem attractive to people, because if you try and shut it down there will be massive public resentment.’
Prof Stock also told Times Radio: ‘I think that the media has not always acted responsibly in describing this dispute.
‘It’s encouraged a feeling that this must be about their existence or their legal protection, when in fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not.
‘It’s about the form the legal protection takes and whether it interacts with legal protections for biological sex and female sex in particular.
‘I have sympathy. I’m hoping that by this sort of initiative people in positions of influence start to see that this is not about trans people’s existence, we know they exist, we want them to be legally protected.
‘The way in which it has been talked about in some quarters of the press is just completely ridiculous and histrionic and has encouraged a sense of paranoia.’
Her comments come after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waded into the row, saying Prof Stock had a right to speak on campus despite the protests.
Intervening in the university’s free-speech debate, Mr Sunak told The Daily Telegraph: ‘A free society requires free debate. We should all be encouraged to engage respectfully with the ideas of others.
‘University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion. Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union should stand.’
When asked about the Mr Sunak backing her appearance, she added: ‘I’m glad that senior politicians are recognising the value of free speech and debate and I hope that they also take some interest in the underlying issues which are very important. I hope Keir Starmer also agrees with him.’